Music fans obviously love to reminisce over classic hits and unforgettable moments in the culture. But minds were blown when, on Wednesday, July 26, Jeff and Eric Rosenthal, co-hosts of the highly-popular “A Waste of Time with ItsTheReal” podcast managed to achieve what seemed impossible. They gathered legendary key figures from Roc-A-Fella Records to sit and discuss the label’s highlights and never-before-heard moments.
We’ve heard stories from the label created by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Damon “Dame” Dash, and Kareem “Biggs” Burke before. But the Rosenthal Brothers wrangled a cast of characters from the days of the R.O.C. that few have seen in the same place for one legendary live podcast held at New York City’s High-Line Ballroom. CASSIUS sat with Jeff and Eric to discuss how the idea came about, how it came together and where they want to go from here.
CASSIUS: So I’m guessing you guys are still recovering from Wednesday night.
Eric Rosenthal: Oh yeah, I didn’t get much sleep. I woke up around 5 or 6AM, and a friend from out of town wanted to get breakfast. I knew I couldn’t do it because I was focused on everything for the night. Jeff still went, but I couldn’t.
Jeff Rosenthal: Yeah, I don’t know how I did it, I was so amped for the night.
E: You know what it was? As this got bigger, and we even created an idea for how this would go ourselves, we had to figure out how far we’d stray from our normal interview style. It was 10 people, and we wanted to allow everyone the right amount of time to tell their stories.
Expectations grew as we kept adding names, and we knew we had one shot to do this.Expectations grew as we kept adding names, and we knew we had one shot to do this.
J: Plus, we didn’t want to reach out to traditional media outlets for this, because we know that we have a very loyal fanbase, and when this came out, we knew we’d have the support from them. So we didn’t have to do too much promo.
C: How did the idea for the show even come about?
J: Peter Oasis, one of the main promoters from the High-Line Ballroom, reached out to us wanting us to do a live podcast show there. We weren’t too thrilled at the idea, and High-Line was a big room. So we knew the difficulties of selling out such a big venue. He suggested us getting that one perfect guest and nominated Action Bronson. We reached out to his people with no response. So the next day, I thought about it and talked to Eric about hitting up Lenny [Lenny S, SVP of Roc Nation, longstanding Roc-A-Fella member] about getting past Roc-A-Fella artists and folks we’ve interviewed before all on one bill. We pitched it to Lenny and he said ‘Yes” immediately. Emory [Emory “Vegas” Jones, Roc Nation Lifestyle Specialist] was in the room and he agreed to do it, too. We then emailed Chaka [Chaka Pilgrim, President of Roc Nation] and text Freeway. [Legendary Roc-A-Fella Engineer] Young Guru thought the date was taking place in June instead of July and initially declined because he was working with Jay on 4:44, but we cleared that up and he then confirmed.
E: A long time ago, we figured out our niche in the podcast game in speaking to the behind-the-scenes people in the music game over the same artists doing those promo runs, because they end up having better stories than the artists.
J: And we heard that people had tried to do this before, so we knew that if we did it, it would be dope. People have called us asking how we put it together.
E: Right, so Lenny helped us a lot, and we would then ask people we had relationships with like Freeway, Guru, and others just to participate in this celebration, because that’s what it was.
We didn’t want the dirt or anything salacious, we wanted to pay that respect to Roc-A-Fella and what they brought to music.We had a list of people that we wanted and it seemed like one after another started to confirm once they saw what we were trying to do.
C: I feel that 100%. Roc-A-Fella Records was one of the last real hip hop dynasties, and the break-up was so bad. So to have all these people together in the same room, with no issues, was a major task.
E: Absolutely. And we wanted to make sure we told the story right. After getting Lenny and Emory on board, we reached out to Biggs, who we were connected with through Emory. For the run of show, we wanted to bring people on stage as the story went on. So first we talked to Biggs then Hip-Hop [Kyambo ‘Hip-Hop’ Joshua] came on stage, he flew in, and Chaka came on. She actually came on board after curving us twice before when we reached out to her for her own episode for the podcast [laughs].
J: Lucky for us, we didn’t have a hard stop time-wise, so we could’ve went for four hours instead of the two and a half. So it ensured that everyone could share their stories, and not just that, the conversations they’d have with themselves on stage, and the stories that brought about that you’d never hear again.
C: I heard that a lot was said on stage, that apparently Memphis Bleek passed on the beats for Black Rob’s “Whoa” and Nas’ “Oochie-Wally?”
J: Yup. That was confirmed.
And we found out that Freeway’s beat for ‘Flipside’ was originally supposed to be the first collaboration record between Jay and Beyoncé.And we found out that Freeway’s beat for “Flipside” was originally supposed to be the first collaboration record between Jay and Beyoncé. And you could hear the people gasp out loud for that one.
C: That’s wild!
E: And that’s why we had to make sure we recorded this, both the audio and video, so that the people who couldn’t make it could still experience this moment. The stories and the moments were way too good.
C: Is this something that you guys see yourself doing for other historic groups in hip hop? There are a lot of stories that need to be told.
E: Well, definitely. We’re still in disbelief that it happened, but we got so many calls and so many people reached out to us about doing other groups and labels. We even got asked to go to your home city Philly to do something [laughs]. But no seriously, we can’t wait to share this out. This might’ve been one of our biggest projects to date, and we’re looking to top it.
It’s good to see people acknowledge a venture like this as being good for the culture – a phrase that gets thrown around too loosely.It’s good to see people acknowledge a venture like this as being good for the culture – a phrase that gets thrown around too loosely. We’re fans of Roc-A-Fella Records and everything they gave us and the hip hop culture, so to be able to capture this? That’s amazing.
The podcast and video portion of ItsTheReal’s Roc-A-Fella Records Celebration will be released soon. Listen to their podcasts here.